Elementary Review: “Under My Skin”

photo credit: @ELEMENTARYstaff

photo credit: @ELEMENTARYstaff

Here’s my review of Elementary season three episode “Under My Skin.” Please note that this isn’t a recap of what happens. I’m assuming that you’ve already seen the episode. There are spoilers in this review.

While there have been a plethora of excellent episodes this season, “Under My Skin” might be one of my favorites since the conclusion of Kitty’s arc. We’ve got not only an interesting (albeit gruesome) case, but also opportunity for everyone in the main cast to be useful. Plus Alfredo was there to do some strong character work, and really, you just can’t go wrong with Alfredo.

I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed the case this week. I think there were just a lot of parts that caught me off guard. There wasn’t anything exceptionally quirky at the crime scene (reused shell casings aren’t as exciting if Sherlock doesn’t need to lick them) and the crime itself wasn’t anything I’ve never seen on TV before (I’m still traumatized by NCIS’ season 4 episode “Angel of Death“). The case is pretty standard: find the person who killed the paramedics and the patient. But the case doesn’t take the predictable routes that I expected. The patient in the ambulance, Maggie Halpern, was taken hostage at the beginning, but ends up dead within the first 20 minutes of the episode. When they examine the body, they expect her missing organs to be related to some black market organ trade, but she turns out to be an unwitting drug mule instead. That’s not as crazy as selling your organs, but it’s still something darkly fascinating to explore for an episode. And of course, the big shocker is that Dr. Ward the dentist tried to cover up his crimes by confessing and making a deal with the DA. I thought all of this made the case flow in a natural way even if it wasn’t anything extremely out of the ordinary for Sherlock to investigate. It was a mystery where I wanted to keep watching as they peeled away each motive and suspect until they reached the truth. It wasn’t the best case they’ve ever solved, but it certainly wasn’t the worst either.

But I think the best part of this episode’s mystery was that it gave everyone something important to do. Sherlock made important deductions as usual, but since he was also involved in Alfredo’s storyline, there was more opportunity for everyone else to contribute. Joan, for example, used her medical knowledge to figure out Maggie was unaware of her drug mule status and also that the true killer was a surgeon. It’s always great to see the knowledge from Joan’s previous profession put to use.

Joan, however, gets to make important deductions all the time. What’s really great is that Det. Bell had an opportunity this time too. Lately it seemed like all Bell did was run down leads off-screen. He hasn’t had this much to do since that episode with the missing zebras. We know Bell is a competent detective too, but it’s just nice to see him at work. I almost cheered as Bell made the important discovery that Maggie had been killed while the suspect was in custody, meaning that there was another person involved. How often does Bell ever get the opportunity to figure out stuff like that? Not often enough. He also got a lot of screentime including questioning Maggie’s roommate, making deals with Janko the drug lord, and watching Dr. Ward sign his confession. It’s not exactly adding depth to his character, but at least he’s continuing to serve a purpose in the show. I hope this trend continues.

Gregson also was more present in this episode, as he took care of important work in the office like overseeing suspect interrogations and such. He’s the boss so it’s nice to see a reminder that he’s in charge occasionally.

The only weakness of the case would probably be the large amount of exposition we were given as they convince Dr. Ward to confess. It’s tedious to have to sit through a long explanation especially as they give it to someone who already knows what he’s done. It’s purely for the audience’s benefit to fill in the blanks. It’s almost like they ran out of time for the episode so they just summarized at the end. This seems to be a common problem on many procedurals.

Of course, if they ran out of time, it’s only because other time was spent devoted to Sherlock and Alfredo’s friendship/sponsorship. And that was time well-spent because it’s always great to see the dynamic between the two of them. Before Alfredo said it out loud, I hadn’t considered that they weren’t friends. And frankly, Sherlock didn’t seem to consider it either. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time delving into Sherlock’s mind on the subject (he only discussed it with Joan once) but his actions- giving Alfredo an alibi- show well enough about how he feels on the matter. And when Sherlock “fires” Alfredo so they can be friends, it really shows just how far he’s come since season one when he didn’t really care for anyone. In addition to this, it was an interesting change to see Alfredo struggling for once. The writers always do an excellent job of making all the characters seem real, not fictional.

Things really came together in this episode even if there was no big emotional gut punch or exciting action. It was a low-key episode but gave everyone something to do. Nothing seemed wasted. I’m excited to see how the last three episodes of the season will go.

Extra Case Files

  • The writer’s twitter says that Alfredo will be back again this season. Yay!!!
  • The humor in this episode wasn’t showy or over-the-top. Just a few great quotes like “What is this?” “A newspaper. It has news in it.” And earlier in the episode when Sherlock confronts the detective following Alfredo. The way Sherlock stands up to make a scene and then sit immediately back down when the detective cracks is just funny. I love the way Jonny Lee Miller portrays Sherlock in motion.
  • Bonus points for this episode for including Clyde… just eating lettuce like a BAMF.
  • Completely unrelated to Elementary at all, but the phrase “under my skin” always reminds me of “Mirotic” by TVXQ. (It’s in the chorus)

So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Feel the urge to go steal some cars now? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. Thanks, as always, for reading!

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